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Issues: Background

Law, guidance and standards affecting Hackney Marshes

What is Hackney Marshes?

Hackney Marsh covers an area of 137.6 hectares and is registered as common land (CL17) under the Commons Registration Act 1965. It is owned by the Council and is subject to a statutory right of public access under section 193 of the Law of Property Act 1925. There are no rights of common registered in respect of the land.

Planning inspectorate, 2011

 When people say 'Hackney Marsh' they tend to be talking about the Main Marsh, which lies between Homerton Road on the south side and the two waterway arms of the old river Lea on the east, and the Lee navigation on the west. Sometimes 'Hackney Marsh' may be meant to include East Marsh, which lies east of White House Bridge between the old River Lea and Ruckholt Road.

The common land of Hackney Marshes comprises more than that. As we understand it, the Hackney Marshes commons include:

  • Main Marsh (comprising North Marsh and South Marsh)
  • East Marsh (across the old River Lea)
  • Wick Woodland (south of Homerton Rd; managed as a separate space)
  • Arena Fields, White Hart Field, Morris Field (taken for the Olympic development, but apparently still registered as common land)
  • Mabley Green (managed as a separate park)

In the lead-up to the Olympics, the enabling legislation apparently allowed the authorities to play fast and loose with common land rights and obligations, and when they ran into a legal obstacle they simply changed the law. Exactly where the commons of Hackney Marshes now stand is not clear to us.

Hackney Council seems to change the definition of Hackney Marshes to suit itself.

In LBH's Hackney Marshes Management Plan 2011-16, the Marshes is defined as just North, South and East Marsh. The Green Spaces Events Policy (Jan 2013 update) follows this, listing Mabley Green and Wick Woodland separately.

But when applying for PINS permission for Hackney Weekend 2012, LBH seems to have included all the registered common land above in its calculation of the marshes' land area, so as to minimise the apparent proportion occupied by this event. Similarly, in the 2013 Major Events Consultation, LBH described Wick Woodland and Mabley Green as part of Hackney Marshes, again so as to suggest that a smaller proportion of the Marshes was affected.

Planning protections

Hackney Marshes is both Metropolitan Open Land, and Common Land.

Metropolitan Open Land is protected through planning policy. The London Plan 7.17 says:

Appropriate development should be limited to small scale structures to support outdoor open space uses and minimise any adverse impact on the openness of Metropolitan Open Land

Metropolitan Common Land is protected under s38 of the Commons Act 2006 which prohibits any restricted works without consent.

 In subsection (1) “restricted works” are —
(a) works which have the effect of preventing or impeding access to or overany land to which this section applies;
(b) works for the resurfacing of land.
 The reference to works in subsection (2)(a) includes in particular—
(a) the erection of fencing;
(b) the construction of buildings and other structures;
(c) the digging of ditches and trenches and the building of embankments.

s39 describes the considerations in determining consent -

(1) In determining an application for consent under subsection (1) of section 38 in
relation to works on land to which that section applies, the appropriate
national authority shall have regard to —
(a) the interests of persons having rights in relation to, or occupying, the
land (and in particular persons exercising rights of common over it);
(b) the interests of the neighbourhood;
(c) the public interest;
(d) any other matter considered to be relevant.

(2) The reference in subsection (1)(c) to the public interest includes the public
interest in —

(a) nature conservation;
(b) the conservation of the landscape;
(c) the protection of public rights of access to any area of land; and
(d) the protection of archaeological remains and features of historic

Laws and guidance

(an incomplete list - please help us complete it)

London Parks and Metropolitan Open Land

  • "The 1967 Act" - Ministry of Housing and Local Government Provisional Order Confirmation (Greater London Parks and Open Spaces) Act 1967
  • The London Plan

Common land

Hackney Council Plans and Policies


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